"It tastes like you'd imagine Victorian drug store cola to taste."
My idea of a natural soda usually involves an experiment in mixing seltzer water and fresh juice. You get to watch the mixture fizz and spit and change color, just like with an amateur chemistry set.
So when I saw the "Natural Born Cola" Pepsi Raw (marketed in the U.S. as Pepsi Natural) in the cold drinks section at my local pharmacy here in England, I was intrigued by the slim-as-a-Red-Bull, dark-as-a-brown-M&M can. The ingredients listed are "sparkling water, cane sugar, apple extract, colourings: plain caramel, natural plant extracts including natural caffeine and kola nut extract, citric tartaric and lactic acids, (stabilizer) gum arabic, (thickener) xanthan gum."
It claims, furthermore, to be a "sparkling cola drink with natural plant extracts," containing "no artificial colours, sweeteners, flavourings, preservatives." Each 250 ml can contains 93 calories, 23.8 grams of sugar, and no fat, saturates, or salt.
I marched up to the register with the can in my hand like a trophy. The world, I thought, is ready for this. It's about time.
Once home, I snapped open the lid and poured the Pepsi Raw into a glass. The fizz and sparkle is there, as is the identical color. The taste is, however, different, although not worse.
It is slightly more dilute in flavor, making it more like Diet Pepsi than regular Pepsi. But it tastes like you'd imagine Victorian drug store cola to taste, in that you feel like you can pick out individual elements.
It's like drinking a vintage of wine and claiming it contains hints of leather, black currants, and chocolate. This "vintage of Pepsi" tastes of root beer, gingery spices, caramel, and, of course, very smooth cola. It's not as sharp and doesn't make your eyes water quite as much as straight modern colas. It was delicate, and I liked it. I might even prefer it.